Tears and Psalms of an Outlaw by Matt Brooks
As the sun crested the foothills of Hayward, California in May 1973, the panoramic mountain view in the distance was exquisite. On the very same morning – parallel to – I was born in the wild west, only I would arrive about one hundred years too late. I’ve always said I would have thrived in those days with a six-gun on my side in order to justify my hate and drug fueled actions today.
As far back as I can can remember growing up, Bobby and Joni Brooks’ only son, I’ve been drawn to the outlaw lifestyle. Bobby – affiliated with the world’s most notorious outlaw motorcycle gang; and Joni, a member of the local UAW and employ of general motors, I grew up around plenty of illegal activity.
I can only recall one time that I had dreams of becoming normal and that was to be a professional baseball player. I was pretty good, too. I played pitcher, catcher, and clean-up batter, the fourth in the line-up, which was usually the stronger, more powerful position. This dream lasted only a few years of my early childhood. I was going to be a star, while buying my family houses, cars, and really take care of them. That dream quickly faded as I grew up and became more and more attracted to the notorious and infamous, not the traditional icons of the time. I was never interested in things a normal kind would be into, like getting good grades in school or having goals to achieve in pursuit of a career. No, I had my sights set on something much bigger. I wanted to be the biggest, toughest guy in the yard – the prison yard, that is. Ever since I went to visit my father at San Louis Obispo Mens Colony (he was in prison from the time I was a year old), I can remember being in the parking lot. As I looked up at the guard tower and walls, I thought, “I’m going to run the inside one day.” I never even occurred to me that this was anything but normal. I remember being a kid in my neighborhood and seeing the swolled, tatted-up, ex-cons coming home from prison getting all the respect, while having the money and drugs, which would normally bring the women. Now, that’s what I was after!
See, growing up in the 70s and 80s, ex-cons and outlaws weren’t frowned upon so much like in today’s society. No, the powers that be selectively choose, as they flip the script (change the format); while deciding who to turn into public enemy number one.
Going all the way back to the gunslinger days of the wild west, where the likes of our hometown natives, Jesse James and the Younger gang, ruled with other outlaws of the sort and only the strong survived. Outlaw heroes of the past have come outlaw zeros of the present. For example, I was gazing out of my Clay County jail cell window contemplating how out of what this so-called justice system had become. I was struck by the status of Jesse James that dominates the square of Liberty Missouri. Is that the liberty that is meant to be the very essence of freedom or the more appropriate “liberties” that Jesse took upon himself when he helped Bloody Bill Anderson ambush and kill one hundred of Honest Abe’s troops?
The contrasting unbalanced system became so clear to me. Here on one hand was a statue of a murderer, robber and thief that is celebrated as a folk hero. While on the other hand, I sat in jail for a far lesser crime. However, the future holds no statues for me. In stead I receive maximum punishment for my crimes and no celebration.
Jesse’s statue wouldn’t happen to be holding a set of scales to emphasize how unbalanced things truly are would he? Now that would be more like it. The irony of this situation was equally as suffocating as the iron doors holding me in my cage.
The paradigm changes while the pendulum swings through the decades into the present, where we’ve become products of our environment.
More to come . . .
(Note, Matt Brooks is incarcerated in the Missouri Department of Corrections. He is writing a book. The words in this article are a draft of the forward to his book, “Tears and Psalms of an Outlaw.”)